Thinking about a complete career transformation? Read this story about Cynthia Lowrance Grano, a Connecticut entrepreneur who turned a commute to Wall Street into a walk through her garden.
There was a time when Cynthia wore a business suit every day. Now she dresses more casually to design exquisite jewelry, pillows and sachets for her company, Cynthia Alexander llc. Although her former life as an investment banker in the oil and gas industry may seem totally unconnected to her entrepreneurial activity today, Wall Street actually paved the way for her career transformation.
As an investment banker Cynthia traveled extensively throughout Europe. On her first trip to France she fell in love with the abundant lavender. She read about the aromatherapy benefits of the flower, and she used lavender oil on her pulse points to relax during her transatlantic flights.
Cynthia’s business travels then extended to Asia, where she was lured by Hong Kong’s jade and other semi-precious stones. She began to purchase a wide variety of stones with the idea that someday she would do something interesting with her collection.
The investment banking chapter ended when Cynthia married and moved to Rome. A year later her husband relocated to Mexico, where she found another source of semi-precious stones. Now business ventures were not foremost on her mind. She gave birth to a son and immersed herself in the roles of wife and mother.
When their son was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 18 months, Cynthia and her husband moved back to the U.S. Repeated brain surgeries were required to bring his condition under control. Life was at a standstill for many months, and the couple lived in a rented apartment. All of their possessions, including her stones, were in storage.
Just before her son was scheduled for his seventh surgery, Cynthia stumbled upon a store that sold semi-precious stones. She had originally bought stones purely for their beauty—but since learned that they are purported to have special strengths and healing powers. With her son’s surgery in mind, she bought several stones and tied them in his baby socks.
When a child is sick, a mother will search for any possible cure, and Cynthia decided that the stones could possibly help her son. The surgeon allowed her to put the stones next her son in the operating room. Many forces may have been at work that day, but miraculously it was the last surgery. Today the same stones always travel with her son.
As time went on Cynthia wanted to work again, but her son’s condition required flexibility. She decided that she could use the things she loved most from her business travels to create a business at home. The lavender from France, the stones from Asia and fine Midori ribbons from Japan were the foundation for her entrepreneurial venture. She created lovely silk sachets filled with lavender, tied with the ribbon and adorned with the semi-precious stones.
Cynthia’s business did not blossom overnight. At first she simply made her sachets as widely admired gifts. But then at the prodding of a friend who owned a Martha’s Vineyard shop, she began to introduce her line publicly. A more extensive manufacturing process began in a studio on her property—and she used the stones on pillows she created as well.
Soon Cynthia expanded into jewelry—creating one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets and earrings that showcase her carefully selected semi-precious stones. The stones she uses on her products are not only beautiful, they also have specific meaning. The butterfly stone that she ties around sachets, for example, symbolizes immortality and joy.
After 14 years of creativity, Cynthia’s one-product sachet business has become a multi-product line featured in six stores across the country. On her web site, www.cynthia-alexander.com, you will see jewelry, pillows, shoe trees, shoe bags, lingerie bags, silk hangers, make-up bags, tissue box covers, picture frames, and key rings—all designed and created right in her home studio. Keeping true to her beginnings, many of Cynthia’s products are scented with lavender or amber and many are adorned with semi-precious stones.
The only thing that Cynthia did not leave behind in her investment banking life are the long hours. Now she works well into the night producing her highly sought after products—but it is work on her own schedule. She travels as it fits within her family’s life to sell her products at charity events and trunk shows. And she finds many ways to combine business and pleasure—like the four weeks in July/August she will be in Nantucket selling her jewelry line in the Nina McLemore store.
A sole-proprieter only in the eyes of Uncle Sam, Cynthia often has a star salesman at her side. Her son, Alexander, now a college student, is a knowledgeable resource for customers who want to know the benefits of semi-precious stones.
- Don’t be afraid to reinvent your career and enter an entirely new field.
- Keep a Reinvention Journal: a running list of all hobbies and interests you could possibly turn into a new career.
- Work slowly toward possible new careers while you still have a job. Gather samples of products, marketing brochures, supplies, ingredients, books and resources—whatever you might later use.